Gauchos sophomore, guard, No.30, Josh Mishler dribbles then gets back to back three pointers against the Colts as sophomore, guard, No.4 Hatch on defense in semi-finals at Cerritos College (Photographer Dominic D. Ebel)
The Gauchos survived in a heroic effort which became their toughest challenge yet in the California Community College Athletic Association’s 2015 championship semi-final round as they just noose the Colts a game short of the final.
It came down to the last possession in regulation as the Gauchos were behind the whole game battling for a comeback as they accomplished it in overtime 75-68 .
The Gauchos were just almost done as there last chance came down to a focus play that was to just to get off a three pointer by sophomore, guard, Dusty Baker who willed and dealt at 32 feet away from the rim then going to his right with 1.7 seconds left in regulation to cast off a perfect jumper as it was all net just like he’s been making clutch shots all season.
“It was just luck,” Baker said. “Sometimes it is better to be lucky than be good.”
Luck is a residue of design is known as the New York Yankees, owner, Branch Rickey’s statement. This play was designed to get Baker an opportunity to shoot the three pointer for the tie to send the game to overtime.
“Great shot for the Gauchos as the three pointer by Baker, put us in overtime,” head coach Andy Ground said. “We were a little lucky but we will take it.”
The Colts played well under head coach, Mike Reynoso in the first half as their top three scores found the holes in the Gauchos defense. Led by unstoppable freshman, Crisshawn Clark had 23 points as most came in the first half as Rodrigo Pulliceno contributed nine along was sophomore, Rohndell Goodwin with sixteen.
“We tried to get some stops,” Ground said. “I thought they shot the ball extremely well in the first half. We continued and fought through it.”
The Colts presented the two Gauchos seven footers problems in the post as the Colts were very athletic, fast on defense as their aggressiveness was paying off in the first half. Once the Gauchos could get the ball to sophomore, center, Conor Clifford their was mishaps but he still produced opportunities inside the post as he was working hard being leading scorer for his team with 20 points.
“We had to do what we had to do,” Ground said. “Get the ball inside the post.”
Since the two seven-footers–sophomore, center, Kyle Hoag and Clifford– were still having problems as the Colts were winning the battle in the paint, so then Ground made a bold move to go with a smaller line-up putting in freshman, forward Brandon Fagins with his quickness on defense. It turned to equal out the inside battle in the post as the Colts sophomore, Israel Hakim had been blocked by Fagins seemed to change the momentum of the game.
“We started slow, but had the fire to come back and we had the fire to beat them,” Fagins said. “I wasn’t going to let him finish, so when he went up there I was trying to get the ball and not foul [Hakim] as best as I could.”
Early in the game the Gauchos guards drove down the Colts lanes with no success sophomore, guard, Kenny Hatch was talking smack to freshman guard Maleke Haynes after his shot was blocked by the Colt defenders down under the basket which set the tone in the first half 32-22 in favor of the Canada.
“It was a good team we played ,”Ground said. “Their was a lot of mistakes for us on the defensive end but we got through it.”
The Gauchos seemed to make the correct adjustments as they came out playing much better basketball in the second half as they answered 32-25 by getting Maleke Haynes to the line as he makes his free throws. Then Gauchos sophomore, guard Josh Misher sparkes his team hitting back to back three pointers just when they needed them the most.
“We just wanted to grind it out and they were a great team,” Baker said. “Best team we have played all year and we just wanted to push it into overtime.”
The Gauchos were closing in on the score 59-57 with one and half minutes left as sophomore, guard, Andrew Bournes steals the ball but couldn’t control it as Hatch returns the favor as the crowd is really into the game. Hatch gets fouled with 30 seconds left as if he was the only player in the gym he shinks both free throws as the Colts are up 61-57.
“It all depends on who’s playing well,” Ground said. “That’s what I always do as it nothing to do with size.”
There was little time as Mishler found daylight to score as with 9.7 seconds the score was 61-60 as the Gauchos were down to foul quickly as they did. The Colts needed these free throw to put the game to a three point deficit and possibility putting the game out of a reachable two but not by a three pointer as Goodwin sinks them both.
“Bunch of guys just stepped up and we didn’t quit,” Baker said.
Obviously, Baker makes the three to tie in regulation time makes this one of the best all time comebacks, as Gauchos finished it off in overtime 75-68. Saddleback had strong scoring games by Baker had 16, Mishler 13 and Haynes 12 as Host is dependable as Bournes still not 100% as he still recovering on his offense shot rhythm as he still plays well on defense.
“I’m thinking East Los Angeles is a real good ball club,” Ground said.”We will probably have to make adjustments.”
The final state championship game will be on Sunday at 1 p.m., March 15, 2015 when Saddleback College (32-2) meets East Los Angeles College (22-10) an all-Southern California final at Cerritos College.